Story at a glance
- Last year T-Mobile announced its Project 10Million commitment, aimed at providing low-income households with free internet.
- The cellular network giant is now launching a nearly $11 billion dollar initiative to bring reliable Wi-Fi service to students in need through the handout of hot spots.
- T-Mobile will work directly with school administrators, who can sign their schools up for a 100GB per month option or a fully unlimited plan.
The start of September usually marks a return for students back to the classroom, but pandemic-related concerns are keeping a record number of them at home. Many of these students are now expected to participate in remote learning, meaning they will require a solid internet connection at all times in order to participate in lessons, assignments, activities and more.
Remote learning presents a challenge to many students and their families who either cannot pay for or do not have access to high speed internet, with photos of students working on the pavement outside of fast food institutions such as Taco Bell recently going viral, illustrating the lack of Wi-Fi available to many students in their own homes. Stepping in to bridge this gap is T-Mobile. The cellular network service recently announced the start of a nearly $11 billion initiative to bring internet connectivity to all U.S. students who are part of free and reduced-price school lunch programs.
“Even before the pandemic, more than 9 million of America’s 56 million school-age kids did not have access to reliable internet and could not complete after-school assignments,” the company said in a news release. “Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented 50 million students are learning remotely."
According to a study published in June from Common Sense Media, approximately 15 to 16 million, or 30 percent, of all K-12 public school students in the United States live in homes with inadequate internet connection, or have devices that aren't equipped for distance learning.
While circumstances have become even more dire this year due to the pandemic, T-Mobile actually announced its goal of providing 10 million low-income households with free internet back in 2019, attempting to demonstrate the company’s devotion to social good as it sought to merge with then-competitor Sprint.
Now the company is working with school administrators and parents all over the country who can apply for the program by providing ZIP codes for their students in the school lunch program. Once accepted, schools can then distribute free mobile hotspots and devices to students in need, with T-Mobile providing assistance for setup and technical support. Each qualified household can receive a free hotspot and 100GB of data over a single year, or they can pay a low fee of $12 monthly for 100GB of data each month.
“Education is the great leveler, but without internet access, kids will be left behind,” said T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert. “This issue is even more critical as the COVID-19 pandemic has completely shifted learning for many from the classroom to online. Big issues need big solutions, and that’s exactly why we’re not just launching but significantly enhancing Project 10Million and giving flexibility to educators so they can best address the unique needs of their students.”